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DATE: Aug. 22 and Aug. 23
COUNTY: Pitkin County
LOCATION DETAILS: Included in above report.
NEAREST TOWN: Aspen
NEAREST ROAD: no roads or highways. Accessible only via foot
OBSERVED: For the past several years, my hiking partner and I have been heading out to the Crested Butte area of Colorado for a week-long backpacking trip. This year we both decided to be extremely aggressive and hike over an expanse of land we'd been eyeing on the topo map since our trip last summer.
Because of the vast amount of land we would be covering in 5 days, we decided to acclimate so that altitude sickness wouldn't claim us halfway through the trip. We flew into Denver, spending a night in Boulder. The following day we drove to Breckenridge and spent a night there. Finally, we made it to Crested Butte and spent a night in town before hitting the trails. On Monday, August 21, 2000, we headed out on the trail toward our final destination, Snowmass Lake
The trip was to take us on a "loop", a 360-degree trail from Schofield Pass, through the Maroon Bells and Snowmass Wilderness to Snowmass Lake itself. We would then hike from Snowmass to Geneva Lake, then down through Crystal Canyon and back into Schofield. Our itinerary put us at a lake every night so that we were guaranteed water and a little aesthetic value as well. The carefully-planned trip took exactly 4 nights and 5 days.
Day 1 was uneventful. The both of us set camp at the base of Maroon Bells in order to complete our acclimation and, most importantly, avoid the clockwork storms and showers that torment the area during this time of year. If you didn't set camp by 5:00 p.m., you were in for a wet one!
Day 2 was an aggressive hike through Maroon Bells and to Crater Lake, where we planned to set up camp for the evening. This, however, wasn't going to happen. Due to the lack of rain over the summer, Crater Lake was more like Crater Sludge. The lake was dried up for the most part and swarming with mosquitoes and black flies. Also, there were no sources of flowing water.
Without going into a panic, I realized we were both dangerously low on water. Our camelbacks were almost completely empty, and I didn't feel confident filtering the sludge that was remaining in Crater. We could've backtracked to a river about 2 miles up from Crater Lake but that would've set us back tremendously.
It was approx. 3:30 p.m. when we both decided we would begin hitting the trail that would take us to our next destination: Snowmass Lake. We both figured that as we went up toward the next pass, we were bound to find a river or stream where we could grab some water and set up camp.
After hiking for about 1:45 hours, we hit a shelf that overlooked a rather expansive canyon. The shelf and surrounding wilderness was not conducive to setting up camp but there was available water and the storm was literally minutes from hitting us.
We set up camp in the best possible place we could find, then ran down the canyon to the stream and filled our camelbacks. As soon as we returned to the campsite, the rains started. I was exhausted and decided to sleep out the storm. It was approximately 6:00 p.m.
At approx. 8:30 p.m. I awoke to silence. The rain had stopped, but a mild misting continued. My hiking partner was propped up in the tent and had passed out while reading his book, awaking soon after I had. Having to desperately relieve myself, I unzipped my side of the tent and pulled myself out to walk up to the trail and find some privacy. It was pitch black and though the sky had started to clear, there was no visible moonlight or starlight at this time.
As soon as I stood straight up from the tent to hit the trail, I saw what I could only describe as ___ well, I can't compare it to anything, really. About 70 feet directly in front of me on the trail was a set of large, green-glowing eyes. At first - for a split second - I thought it was a bear but that's when I realized it was significantly taller than I was, and the eyes were larger than any animal I'd ever seen. As a comparison, later in the trip we were camping and had a fire burning when a whitetail deer came into our view. The full-grown doe was approx. 20 feet from me, and looking straight at me. The doe's eyes were no more than one-quarter the size of the eyes of the critter standing 70 feet away from me that I've mentioned above. In other words, the eyes were big. Also, I stand at 6-foot-1-inch and this thing had to be over 8-feet tall.
The critter and I stared at each other for a little over 30 seconds before I was able to mutter some words to my partner. The two of us were talking to one another the entire time but I couldn't get him to get out of the tent and help me. I guess, whatever it was I was saying to him was not prompting him to leave the tent and check this thing out with me.
NOTE: I also observed two "floaters" at about the mid-section of my observer. These "floaters" had the same green color as the larger critter's eyes, but were constantly moving (in almost a figure-eight). Keep in mind that there were NOT two sets of "floaters" but only one on each side. It's not as clear as I'd like it to be if you consider these to be the young of whatever it was that was staring me down unless, of course, each one had an eye closed - not logical. Of course, they could've been half-way hidden behind their mother/father/mentor They were also significantly smaller than their taller counterpart. Though I never took my glance away from the larger set of eyes, I couldn't help but be puzzled by what was moving by this thing's sides. After only a few seconds from the initial sighting, these things went behind the larger creature and seemed to disappear. They were not observed at any other time.
I had my head lantern and reached up to turn it on, never taking my eyes off our observer. When I turned it on, that's when I was really blown away (and terrified beyond belief). The eyes of this thing reflected so much light, the damn things looked like mini-headlights. The eyes reflected a green tint that literally showed up on the top of the tree it was standing next to (to its right), as well as the side of its head on both the left and right. I was also able to make out some brush between its legs but I was unable to see any great detail beyond that.
It was definitely on two legs, had a very large head with eyes to match and was quite tall. I quickly took note of the tree it was standing next to so that I would be able to judge the height more effectively later on (I have a photo I can scan at home of me standing by the actual tree with my arm extended upward. It's this tree that the critter was standing next to and the top of my hand represents about where it's eyes were).
We continued to stare each other down. Neither it nor I moved a muscle, though my mouth was going a million miles a minute. Finally, without taking my eyes off the critter in front of me, I was able to convince my partner that he had to see this thing. He turned on his lantern inside the tent and that's when it decided to make its move. The 'visitor' blinked, turned and walked down the trail and immediately out of sight. I jumped back into the tent and decided I could relieve myself at a much later time -- like, in the morning.
I held a discussion with my partner for quite a while after that. We were both fully alert and very much awake. He told me that while I was sleeping he heard what he thought was a camper coming down the trail but that he was quite concerned because the footsteps were loud (it was raining and we were 70+ feet from the trail) and he could hear the "person" walking on and off the trail, which is not common for a hiker no matter how avid they are at the sport. What really got his attention was that the "hiker" stopped at the top of the trail closest to our tent and didn't continue. This thing must've been staring at the tent, or been around it for at least an hour before I even set foot outside.
I convinced myself that I must've seen a large bear with a talent for walking on two legs. Though I was only able to grab a couple of hours of sleep, I was satisfied that what I'd seen could easily be explained away.
At approx. 5:00 a.m., I heard footsteps approaching the tent. Whatever it was that had come to spy on us was adept at stealth because it was only feet away from the tent before I was able to hear it, not giving me time to nudge my partner awake or grab my pepper spray and/or buck knife. Something was standing about 2 feet from my head outside of the tent. I didn't smell anything, or hear any breathing, but there was definitely someone or something looming over our tent.
I slowly reached for any weapon I could use to defend myself but I must've made too much noise because the visitor then walked down the canyon toward the stream and out of range.
I shook my partner back to life and told him about the incident, that's when we both heard two sets or two very loud knocks (by the way, the sun had just started to rise). It was as if someone had a baseball bat and was whacking the side of a tree with it. The sounds were directly across from the tent on the other side of the canyon. There were two loud whacks, about 10-15 seconds of silence and then two more loud whacks. Then nothing.
We both cautiously got out of the tent and looked around for any sign of wildlife in the area. Of course, we saw nothing. We were able to find impressions in the ground around the tent but we simply couldn't tell if they were footprints, so we went up to where I had spotted the critter during the evening and, unfortunately, there were no discernible tracks around that area either.
We broke down camp and began the journey toward Snowmass Lake.
Approximately 100 yards up the trail, my partner and I both saw, at the same time, a large footprint left in the mud. It looked fresh and was about 14 ½ - 15 inches long. I've sent the photo to Matt M. for reference. I've also included a very bad attempt at outlining it, but I believe it shows the general outline. I used my size-13 foot as a scale. Matt, feel free to distribute at your leisure.
It was another couple of feet up from this print that we saw a significantly larger impression but I stepped right in it and ruined most of it, making a photograph impossible (my partner saw the print just as I stepped in it, but it was too late). Because of the tree canopy, the lighting was quite bad, making photography for beginners a bit tough as well.
Both of the prints shared the same qualities: the shape of the foot (beyond the toes themselves) looked odd. They were not at all like human prints. The sole of the foot appeared to be distorted, wide and having a more pronounced hourglass shape than a human foot - a much more pronounced shape than a human foot, to be exact.
We took a photo of a print and continued toward Snowmass. We saw several other prints of various sizes along the way to Snowmass Lake, with one VERY large print on the trail in the forest that surrounds Snowmass. It appeared to be fresh due to the much-needed rains hitting us in the evenings. The print had to be over 20-inches in length and was slender compared to other prints we saw. It was, however, a long, arduous journey to Snowmass and I had no concept of the distance to the lake once we hit the forest. From where we spotted the large print to the campsite location was about 2 hours worth of hiking.
My partner wanted to pull the camera out of his pack but I was exhausted and figured we'd go back and take the picture later. Besides, we had seen so many prints I thought we'd be able to take as many as we'd wanted closer to camp. This was a mistake, and not one I will make again if I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity.
We set up camp at Snowmass, explored the area, had dinner and hit the sack, eager to get some much-needed rest.
There was another camp not too far from ours with 3 middle-aged men. We were camped next to the lake, while they were camping closer to the dense treeline.
At dusk, my partner and I were sitting up in the tent eating gorp and talking when three very loud and very close tree knocks were heard. My partner looked at me and said, "Not again." Having not slept well the prior night, we were both ready to not be bothered with forest creatures keeping us up another night.
These knocks were close to our camp. Because we were in a valley, it was hard to determine just how close they were, but they were loud and close enough to make the both of us jump out of our skin.
There were three knocks, approx. 10 seconds of silence and then three more knocks. After the second set of knocks, no more were heard (by me) for the rest of the evening.
I immediately asked my partner to get his head lantern on and we'd go into the forest and investigate. I had gathered quite a bit of courage together and was, quite frankly, eager to attempt and identify what was working our nerves by making this noise.
Believe it or not, I was able to sleep through the night uninterrupted. My partner, however, was not. The following morning, he stated "Dave, you wouldn't believe the crazy things I heard last night." I asked him to clarify but all he told me was that he kept hearing sounds of "things" walking in the woods and the knocks apparently continued. I heard nothing for the rest of the evening, having passed out from exhaustion.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Yes, we're going back next year. I'm not finished there.
OTHER WITNESSES: My hiking partner witnessed several events. Please see above report.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Please see above report for complete details
ENVIRONMENT: Explained fully in above report.